Screen Free Week 2016

by Katy on May 1, 2016 · 25 comments

Screen Free Week

Monday, May 2nd starts Screen Free Week, which means that thousands of people will turn off their TV’s, video games, hand held devices and computers. Yes, computers have become necessary tools, but they’re also a major distraction that suck up hours upon hours of our daily lives. So reset your screen addiction and dust off your creative thinking skills!

Here are 100 ideas to get you going!

  1. Call a friend you haven’t talked to for awhile.
  2. Read a guilty pleasure novel.
  3. Tidy up your garden and then share extra perennials with your neighbors.
  4. Start gathering up extra stuff for a garage sale or thrift store run.
  5. Write a letter to an elderly family member.
  6. Go to sleep earlier.
  7. Invite a friend over for an afternoon of chatting and snacks.
  8. Assemble extra meals for your freezer.
  9. Go for a bike ride.
  10. Start a journal.
  11. Put on your favorite music from high school and belt. Out. Those. Tunes!
  12. Finish up your craft projects.
  13. Choose one room in your house to clean, declutter and redecorate using stuff you already own.
  14. Plant some edible seeds. Don’t have a garden? Many veggies such as lettuce and radishes grow well in pots.
  15. Go see some live entertainment. Local community theater is usually affordable enough to be a treat but not a wallet buster.
  16. Pick up an instrument and practice, practice, practice.
  17. Bake a delicious treat, and then share the bounty with your neighbors.
  18. Go outside with your kids and kick a soccer ball or shoot hoops.
  19. Send an unexpected gift to a child.
  20. Pull out your mending pile and bring your wardrobe back to life.
  21. Put your best sheets on your bed and then take a nap.
  22. Write down your goals for the summer.
  23. Offer to babysit for a friend, and then plan some fun screen-free activities for the evening.
  24. Set up a still life and draw it, even if you’re normally not an artistic person.
  25. Drive your car to the fanciest neighborhood in town and go for a walk among the mansions.
  26. Bring a notebook to a coffee shop and do nothing but doodle to see where your mind goes.
  27. Bake bread and then relax into the smell.
  28. Pull out your board games and play into the night.
  29. Have your neighbors over for an informal potluck.
  30. Take all your blankets and pillows and build a kick-ass fort with your kids. Eat dinner in there.
  31. Set up a lemonade stand.
  32. Lay a blanket out in your backyard and stargaze.
  33. Pull out your piles of paper to organize, shred and file.
  34. Take a long hot bath while listening to your favorite music.
  35. Go to the library and ask about free activities for adults.
  36. Pet your dog/cat/guinea pig/unicorn/ferret.
  37. Take advantage of any sunny days to wash your bedding and hang them on the clothesline.
  38. Take an old friend out for coffee/wine/dessert.
  39. Read aloud to your kids, even if they think they’re too old for it.
  40. Go to your favorite thrift shop and photograph the weirdest stuff you can find.
  41. Put a fresh coat of paint on a tired old piece of furniture.
  42. Use your gym membership.
  43. Recreate your favorite restaurant meal at home.
  44. Visit a museum in your own town.
  45. Take another nap.
  46. Find all the gift cards you’ve received through the years and treat yo self.
  47. Prepare a meal to bring to the parents of young children. Trust me, they need it.
  48. Pull out your comic books and catch up with Archie, Spiderman and Buffy.
  49. Open your windows and air out your house.
  50. Drive to the country and stop at all farm stands.
  51. Make your own postcards and mail them to far flung friends.
  52. Read an autobiography.
  53. Get a book of craft projects from the library and attempt creating something.
  54. Make a flower bouquet from your own garden, even if it’s mostly greenery.
  55. Hula hoop/jump rope/play hopscotch.
  56. Go for a hike.
  57. Wash all your sneakers and shine all your shoes.
  58. Trade clothes with a same size friend.
  59. Visit with an older family member and learn what they did instead of watching TV.
  60. Go on a picnic.
  61. Call a friend who’s going through hard times to let her know that you’re thinking of her.
  62. Treat yourself as you would a guest and prepare yourself a sumptuous feast.
  63. Go window shopping in your favorite district, but leave your money and credit cards at home.
  64. Finish a home improvement project.
  65. Volunteer at a pet shelter/school/food pantry.
  66. Go swimming with a friend.
  67. Go to your local beauty school and treat yourself to a new haircut.
  68. Declutter and reorganize your closet in a way that’s pleasing to the eye.
  69. Buy yourself something completely indulgent from a bakery.
  70. Go find a local body of water. A river, pond or ocean will restore your spirits.
  71. Light a fire in the fireplace and pour a glass of wine.
  72. Take another nap.
  73. Write a short story.
  74. Go to your nearest track and do some power walking.
  75. Surprise your family with a fancy dessert on a weeknight.
  76. Give yourself a manicure or pedicure.
  77. Go to an author reading at your favorite book store.
  78. Bust out that deck of cards for an hour or two of gin rummy, poker, solitaire or go fish.
  79. Do an anonymous good deed for a stranger.
  80. Find some live music to enjoy.
  81. Sit at an outdoor cafe and people watch.
  82. Offer to help a friend for a couple of hours with whatever she needs.
  83. Plan a day trip and explore your own state.
  84. Dump out one junk drawer and get it clean and organized.
  85. Borrow a friend’s dog and take it for a nice long walk.
  86. Dedicate one day to all your boring errands to get them over with.
  87. Trade magazines with a friend, and then bring the whole stack into bed.
  88. Spread a sheet on your living room floor and dump out all of your Legos and start creating.
  89. Challenge your kids to create their own board games, and then be willing to play the games.
  90. Plan a date night with your sweetie.
  91. Take a nature walk in your own neighborhood and take close up photos of the plants and flowers.
  92. Stare into space and let your mind wander.
  93. Read the actual newsprint version of your local newspaper.
  94. Write a letter of appreciation to your mother as a mother’s day gift.
  95. Sign up for a one day class in an area of interest.
  96. Sleep late on your days off from work.
  97. Go to a comedy club and laugh your ass off.
  98. Pore through your cookbooks and find new recipes to try.
  99. Do things that would normally be outside of your routine.
  100. Take another nap.

The average American spends 25 hours per day in front of a screen. Can you set one week aside to recharge your creative juices?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Pinterest.

{ 25 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on April 29, 2016 · 69 comments

  1. I’d been unable to book the one nice and affordable motel in the pricey tourist town where my son attends college until today. (We’ll drive down to pick him up for dorm move out day in June.) How did I do it? I called 3-4 times per week until someone finally took pity on me and put my name on a waiting list. Someone cancelled their reservation, which prompted the clerk to call me up. We now have the room booked, which is excellent since it’s directly across the street from the dorms. Squeaky wheel got the room.
  2. I called my son and asked him to save up his cafeteria guest passes for us. Not free by any means, as we paid dearly for that meal plan, but we’ll make good use of them during our stay.
  3. I cleaned one of my mother’s guest cottages today, and took advantage of being near a post office to mail off my Marimekko duvet cover. I’m still awaiting payment for the shoes I sold, so I’ll have to mail those out separately. I did pick up the perfect size Priority Mail box for the shoes while at the post office.
  4. I wrote and submitted two Clark Howard pieces which helps to pad the ol’ college fund.
  5. I stopped into the pay-by-the-pound Goodwill Outlet store near Ikea and bought three items for a grand total of 44¢. I bought a bandana, a jar lid with cool vintage lettering and a fabric iPad case which I’ll sell.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Pinterest.

 

{ 69 comments }

I do a lot of Five Frugal Thing blog posts here on The Non-Consumer Advocate. Partially because they’re easy to write, but mostly because a deeply frugal life is about all the small decisions that get made on a daily basis.

Yes, sometimes I save huge amounts of money with a single action, but mostly it’s multiple small decisions that get made on a daily basis. I drink tea instead of coffee, I wash clothes in cold instead of warm water, I hang dry my laundry when possible and I cook from scratch. I find contentment with what I already own and most of my home’s upgrades involve something that I gleaned for nothing. I find free or almost free solutions to life’s challenges and almost all of my hobbies make money.

I balance my extreme frugality with multiple income streams. Working part-time as a labor and delivery nurse, writing, cleaning my mother’s guest cottages, selling on eBay, Craigslist and in consignment shops. It adds up. It sounds busy, but really it isn’t. I choose my own schedule and have more than enough time to goof off. Probably too much time if truth be told.

It’s a good life.

A recent Atlantic Monthly article titled The Secret Shame of Middle Class Americans outlined how “47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all.” The author, Neal Gabler explains how he and his wife are in the exact same situation, and is quite transparent about how they ended up in such poor financial shape. From the outside, his repeat financial errors are glaringly obvious, (poor real estate choices, private education, keeping up with The Joneses) but at the time the decisions made sense to a father trying to give his daughters the best start in life. However, those daily decisions completely robbed a successful writer from any possibility of financial stability. His daughters’ college educations were funded by his parents, as a pseudo advance against any inheritance he would have received. “It meant that we had depleted not only our own small savings, but my parents’ as well.” Also, he cashed out his retirement to pay for a wedding.

I finished this article with so many unanswered questions. Did the authors’ daughters work while in high school? What about during college? Did they realize the position they were putting their parents into? Gabler wrote that he tried to hide the seriousness of his  financial situation from his family, so it’s entirely possible that they all assumed that there was an infinite supply of money.

I was talking with a doctor at work a few weeks ago, and he started telling me how he’d saved enough money for his kids to attend university, but only if they’d chosen state schools. However, they wanted private colleges, and took out student loans. This guy had no idea he was speaking to a mild manner RN day day, personal finance writer by night, so it was a fairly random topic of conversation. It really stuck in my mind that this man who’s probably earning upwards of $200,000 per year had his children accumulate student loan debt, while I, a part-time nurse and writer, (and married to a paramedic) was paying cash for her kids’ college.

I don’t know this man personally, so I have no idea if he had extenuating circumstances or if he’s simply succumbed to lifestyle inflation that eats up his paychecks. Either way, he wasn’t able to afford to pay for the colleges that his children chose to attend. Setting his kids up for debt.

This discussion brought to mind another conversation with a different doctor, one who’d mentioned how his family was putting off large purchases until they could get their kids through college. He was driving an old enough car that his fellow doctors teased him about it, and instead of saving up for a BMW, he was putting money aside for a whole family vacation.

I started thinking about the extreme example of the billionaire Warren Buffett, who’s been living in the same $31,500 Nebraska house that he and his wife bought back in the 1958. Granted, $31,500 was a considerable amount for Nebraska real estate back then, but still, he and his wife have made a deliberate decision to not give into lifestyle inflation that must be prevalent within his tax bracket.

Living within one’s means is an issue for all income levels. Granted it’s a whole heck of a lot easier with a higher income, but we likely all know high earners who still are swimming in debt.

Gretchen Rubin writes that “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in awhile,” and frugality is a strong example of this secret of adulthood. Every day I make countless small decisions that keep my family above water. Whether that decision is to cook dollar store pinto beans in a crock pot, or simply to not splurge on pick-me-up cute shoes or indulgent coffees.

Frugality is with me, seven days a week, and because it is, I’m able to spend my money where it counts. We have no debt beyond our mortgage, and we’ll hopefully gets our sons through college without the burden of student loan debt. I’m not 100% sure we can do it, but we sure as hell are going to try.

A deliberateness of finance. Every day.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Pinterest.

 

{ 62 comments }

The Value of a Partial Hog

by Katy on April 27, 2016 · 23 comments

The following is a reprint of a previously published post. Enjoy!

It is natural to want to take on projects in the style of the whole hog. Pull everything out of that cluttered closet, go through every single one of your child’s outgrown toys in an afternoon, attack that overwhelming basement mess over a single weekend!

But sometimes, (okay, often) the opportunity for going the whole hog does not offer itself up. Either because of time constraints or energy level, thinking that everything has to be done all at once is a barrier to actually getting anything done.

Which is why I offer up the notion of the partial hog.

Can’t organize the entire closet? How about just the board games or just the shoes? Can’t attack that disastrous basement? Perhaps just a shelf or two would fit into your day.

Trent Hamm of The Simple Dollar recently wrote a blog piece about Snowflaking and Goals.

” ‘Snowflaking’ refers to the idea that if you make little frugal steps throughout the month, you simply add the amount you saved with that method and include the total as an extra payment at the end of the month.”

This is a similar concept to my “partial hog” idea. Dramatically big actions are fantastic, but the small stuff can actually add up more impressively in the long run. The person who spends eight long hours organizing their closets will actually get less accomplished than the person who consistently spends thirty minutes per day.

I have to fight this “Oh, why bother?” instinct when I’m taking a solitary laundry basket of stuff to Goodwill or I’m helping my son clear off his desk in an otherwise disorganized bedroom. But it is these small bits of the hog that will eventually add up to the whole hog.

And the whole hog is the goal, but not necessarily the process.

Sorry if my analogy grossed you out. As an apology, I offer up the adorable Jessica Wolk-Stanley illustration.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Pinterest.

 

{ 23 comments }

Ikea

Five Frugal Things

  1. I stopped into the counseling office at my son’s high school to arrange borrowing a graduation cap and gown. The secretary was very accomodating, and mentioned that she wishes more families would donate these single-use garments back to the school, so they’d have more to lend out. I told her that I’d spread the word on the school’s parent Facebook page. I shudder at the thought of all the unused caps and gowns sitting in closets throughout town. Such an unnecessary and wasteful purchase!
  2. I gassed up our minivan at Costco this morning and resisted the temptation to even step foot into the store. A person can go broke with all the savings at Costco!
  3. I needed some Clark Howard budgeting quotes for a piece I’m writing for his website, so I put a couple of his books on hold at the library.
  4. I brought my laptop to Ikea this morning, where I enjoyed a free cup of coffee while working on my laptop. This Ikea is just a few minutes from Costco, so this involved almost zero extra driving.
  5. I had a credit for a free Redbox code, so I reserved a DVD of the movie Sisters. I love Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, so I really enjoyed the movie. My husband and son complained mightily about my cinematic choice, yet somehow were unable to tear themselves away the from movie and laughed just as hard as I did.

One Frugal Fail

  1. I had an excellent plan to fill up each of our gas tanks at Costco this week. I usually take care of this errand before we hit “empty,” but life got in the way of my excellent plan. My husband decided at the last minute to go to a soccer practice across town last night and gassed up the Prius at the most expensive gas station in the neighborhood. (It’s generally around 45¢ per gallon more than Costco!) Oh well . . . at least he took the Prius instead of the minivan!

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to, and what frugal fails have crept into your life?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Pinterest.

 

{ 61 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on April 25, 2016 · 78 comments

  1. I had an extremely frugal weekend, as I worked Saturday and barely even left the house on Sunday. (I took the recycling to the curb, which was the only time I even left the house!) Northing more frugal than buying nothing and going nowhere! Heaven . . . .
  2. My eBay listings end tomorrow, and both will sell. One has two bids so far and I expect that both of them will get higher bids right before the very end. It’s always entertaining to sell on eBay!
  3. I defrosted two packets of Grocery Outlet beer brats from the freezer yesterday and served them with the last of some ginger curry lentil soup. Tonight I’ll stir fry the last of the brats with some broccoli for an easy and frugal dinner. And yes, the broccoli was from The Grocery Outlet as well. I stopped in after dropping my son at school this morning and bought two huge bags of groceries for $22.41.
  4. My small number of T-shirts all started disintegrating at once, so I plan on stopping into the Goodwill Outlet tomorrow to pick out a couple new ones. I didn’t budget for any clothing this month, so the small amount I’ll pay by the pound will easily slot into the $100 that I budget for “miscellaneous.”
  5. I was scheduled to work just one day this week, so I went onto the hospital website and found an eight-hour shift for this coming Friday. I normally work twelve-hour shifts, so this is very exciting for me, as eight hours fly by faster than Mrs. Duggar pushing out her 19th baby. I attended a four hour meeting last week, so my next paycheck will be exactly the amount that I prefer.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Pinterest.

 

{ 78 comments }

Needlessly manufactured stuff

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Pinterest.

 

{ 28 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on April 21, 2016 · 59 comments

  1. I took advantage of Tuesday’s sunny weather to wash three loads of laundry for the clothesline. This included the grotty throw pillow covers that sit on the front porch all year long. They’re nice bright and clean now, which inspired me to both sweep and vacuum, and my porch now looks so fresh and inviting!
  2. Both of my Marimekko eBay listings have bids, which means they’ll both sell. This has inspired me to take a loop through the house for more things to sell.
  3. I worked at the hospital yesterday, and as always I brought my leftovers as lunch and drank the free coffee and tea. I also earned a bit of extra overtime as the unit was busy. I have a required 4-1/2 hour meeting tomorrow, which will bolster my next paycheck.
  4. I stopped on my way home from dropping my son home to drop a book at the library and pick up a few things at Fred Meyer. I was able to find two gallons of milk with today’s pull-date, which took the price down to $1.29 apiece.
  5. I goofed around on Swagbucks last night while watching TV and hanging out with my son. I earned enough points to order a $25 PayPal gift card, which was my second one this month. The key was to answer a short survey, plus get a few points here and there for playing games while simultaneously running videos on my phone. I generally earn $75 per month through Swagbucks, which in my book makes it worth the effort.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Pinterest.

{ 59 comments }

I received this question in my inbox this morning and decided I would try and answer the reader’s question, but also to open it up to all of you.

Hi Katy,

I’m a big fan of your page and visit it daily. You give me a much needed dose of encouragement to keep on working towards my financial goals, with a little laugh here and there too. I was hoping you could offer some words of advice.

I have two friends who have recently come into a lot of money and I can’t help but feel jealous about it. I hate to admit that I am envious, but it makes me feel a little less satisfied with my frugal lifestyle. Any tips to help me get more excited about pinching pennies?

Thanks!

Teresa

Teresa,

First of all, thank you so much for the kind words, and I’m happy to hear that you’re finding encouragement in the blog.

Let me try and address your question. It can be hard when you see others experiencing a higher standard of living that allows for luxuries that you’re unable to indulge. This might mean travel, restaurant meals or even consumer goods. (The actual cause of the envy is unimportant.)

But this is really an issue of contentedness. When a person is content with their life, then envy doesn’t seep in as deeply. But in order for someone to feel content with their frugality, it needs to be a choice. An example would be living on less because of a spouse’s unexpected layoff versus living on less due to taking a meaningful but low paying job. On paper they’re the same, but in reality they’re completely different. Take a look at what’s making you discontent with your life, and see if you can make some changes. Perhaps allow for some small treats that fit within your budget.

I would suggest that Teresa make a conscious choice to include some like minded and similar situation people in her life. This could be in real life, or even on the internet. The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group has over 12,000 members, and is an amazing space for non-consumer ideas, inspiration and encouragement.  It’s not uncommon for group members to remark that the group helps them feel like they’re not alone in an otherwise consumer driven culture.

I can’t think of anyone’s life that fills me with envy because I’m very content with the one I’ve chosen for myself. However, I sometimes get envious of other people’s successful blogs as I’ve been blogging since May of 2008, (a millennium in the blogosphere) yet have yet to see the huge reader numbers that many other frugality blogs enjoy. It’s not something I think about on a daily basis, but it does bum me out now and then. On the other hand, The Non-Consumer Advocate is a lot more successful than the average blog, so I put my focus there. I get regular feedback from readers saying the blog has changed their lives, so this pulls me away from any self pity.

Now your turn. What advice do you have for Teresa? Have you been in a similar situation, and if so what helped? Maybe you’re even in a similar situation right now? Either way, please share your ideas and support in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Pinterest.

{ 61 comments }

Five Frugal Things

by Katy on April 19, 2016 · 36 comments

Marimekko eBay

  1. I photographed and then listed two Marimekko items for eBay last night. One was a duvet cover with sham that I picked up at Goodwill, and the other was a brand new pair of groovy Marimekko Converse sneakers that my sister gifted to me. Sadly they were the wrong size, so off to a new owner they’ll go. (Update, the duvet cover already has a bid at $49.99!)
  2. I helped my mother clean one of her guest cottages and added the money to the ol’ college fund. I’ve cleaned twice this month and will do one more next week. I’ll work on a Clark Howard piece this afternoon and work at the hospital both Wednesday and Saturday. I get paid Friday, which will be #4 of 5 paychecks this month between my husband and myself. We pretty much depleted our college fund earlier this month, but are filling it back up as fast as can be.
  3. I put a load of towels into the washing machine last night in order to take full advantage of the warm weather clothesline opportunity. I might be able to get two loads on the line today if I start early enough. (Update, the weight of the towels snapped my clothesline and now I have to wash my white towels all over again. However, I left them on the ground outside as I just can’t deal with it right now . . . )
  4. I talked to my next door neighbor about borrowing her power washer, which I’ll use for our backyard rock wall and the concrete in front of the house. I’ll wash her short driveway as a thank you.
  5. I didn’t buy a Lear Jet.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Pinterest.

{ 36 comments }